Being Aggressive on Fresh Cattle with Nick Sartain

World Champ Nick Sartain talks fresh steers
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World Champ Nick Sartain talks fresh steers

Photos by Lone Wolf Photography

You want to hurry and get him headed as fast as you can, but there’s a moment, as you start into the turn, where you need to be patient and soft with him. That will keep the steer’s feet together and make it easy on your heeler. Even on steers that try, you have to slow down to make up time. You need to be patient. Watch the steer’s head in the turn and make sure your horse is not ducking off and is bringing him through the corner so your heeler can rope him.


1. This was the day before the George Strait roping. I’m practicing being aggressive because the roping calls for that. This steer is fresher and he’s stepping off to the right. I’m already starting my delivery and I’m really happy with my spacing here.

2. This is a neat illustration of how, as this steer is trying, he’s down in his stride. If you are trying to reach and make aggressive runs, if your swing is just going right to left and you catch a steer in a stride like this, you’re going to miss. In this picture, it looks like I’m going to miss. That’s why it’s important to have more than just right and left in your delivery. You have some downward motion to it as well. I have a high angle on my swing when I come out of the box and keep it up high so that I can make shots like that right there. Every delivery is going to be right to left, I just try to add quite a bit of down to my swing, too.

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3. I like my loop right here. I’ve got the steer around the eyes, which is where I like it to keep from popping it off. Right here, I want my head horse to start to gather up and shorten his stride. When we’re going straight down the arena, that’s when I can take the speed off the steer. It’s your only chance to slow things down. If you try to do it once you turn off, you’ll get slack in your rope. I want him to idle at this moment and really listen to what I want him to be doing, because every steer is going to handle a little differently.

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4. This steer was running and going to the right, so in this picture I’m taking his feet away. Everything was going to the right, so I really had to stay in the pocket a long time. I’ve got my hands crossed up good and I’ve got my horse’s shoulder up the way I want them. My horse and the steer are framed up identically—they’re at the same angle. I’m really concentrating on how fast the steer is going and taking some speed off of him, because as soon as he turns and is legal, I have to start using my right leg and pulling that steer.

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5. I’ve let my reins down, I have the speed where I want, all I’m doing is watching the steer’s feet so I know he’s hopping. In my periphery, I’m watching the heeler. I’m starting to use my right foot, put my spur in his belly lightly because that’s what controls that saddle horn. I need that right foot to keep pressure on the steer’s head and keep my horse going. I’m tracking off at an angle back toward the corner. I’ve got the steer opened up pretty good right there and he’s got a nice big hop.